Esther Sternberg studies how places — and the design of spaces — can affect humans’ well-being. In terms of affecting stress, health, recovery, peace of mind, and other intangible but very felt conditions. Her work highlights the importance of how places are designed — and the potential for people to design their own living/working environments to create better triggers, contexts, and relief for their own well-being.
To stretch her insights one step further, into the space of ritual design — we can imagine that a person can design her own living contexts with prompts that trigger rituals-of-wellness. In her radio interview on The Science of Healing Places on ‘On Being’, Esther discusses her own impromptu design of her home working space, that she created in response to cycles of high levels of stress, flaring of chronic disease (rheumatoid arthritis), and missing a vacation spot in small town Crete. She planted citrus plants and created an outdoor-friendly work space for herself, so that if work via her computer was starting to raise her stress to too high a level, the plants and outdoor environment would cue her to take a break, stop looking at the computer, look at a tree, and start to breathe and relax. The place itself becomes the ritual trigger.
Here are some videos from Esther, that describe the power of places & space design in more detail.
Esther’s description of her book, in a video format:
And her talking at a TEDx in Tuscon: